Entertainment: A year on from 'reframing' Britney Spears, the same thing is happening to Cara Delevingne.

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Have you heard? Cara Delevingne is a 'hot mess'.

A year on from 'reframing' Britney Spears, the same thing is happening to Cara Delevingne. © Getty Images A year on from 'reframing' Britney Spears, the same thing is happening to Cara Delevingne.

Yes, apparently we are still calling women 'hot messes' in the year 2022.

In recent weeks, you've probably noticed an increase in coverage of Cara, as paparazzi have stalked the model and actor's moves, and tabloids have packaged their photos up alongside words like 'disheveled', 'erratic', 'distressed' or - you guessed it! - 'hot mess'.

Listen: The Spill interrogates the concerning narrative surrounding Cara Delevingne. Post continues below audio.

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Paparazzi have been hiding with long lens cameras, to capture out-of-context footage of a woman in vulnerable moments without her knowledge. Ick. Then their content has been shared on homepages across the world to be picked apart and judged by the general public. Double ick.

It all feels very 2007.

Last year, I spent a lot of time writing articles about our reassessment of celebrity - especially young, female celebrity - in the 2000s and into the early 2010s.

It was a wide cultural discussion mostly spurned out of New York Times' documentary Framing Britney Spears. We watched in horror as interviewers queried the then-teenage popstar about her sex life or body, and squirmed as we were walked through how her 2007 'breakdown' became the biggest, most profitable story in the world.

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Video via New York Times.

Viewers sought out apologies from media and others who played their part, and reflected on their own contributions to the culture that encouraged them. Then we all reassessed others, from Amy Winehouse to Paris Hilton, and demanded redemption arcs for them or their legacies.

You see, these days, we are far more conscious of the intricacies and nuance needed in discussions about mental illness, addiction and the pressures of tabloid culture following you around than we were in the 2000s.

Or so we thought.

One of our current societal catch cries is 'know better, do better'. And yet, with Cara, tabloids - and social media as an extension - are failing to do so.

In May, Cara attended the Billboard Music Awards as the plus-one of her friend, Megan Thee Stallion.

She quickly became a meme online: for 'making faces', for grabbing the train of her friend's dress and throwing it up in the air for photos, and for just broadly, in the eyes of the internet at least, 'acting strange'.

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Since then, tabloid media have tried to keep track of her every move and have concocted a narrative of a woman spiralling out of control before our eyes. No one knows exactly what is going on with Cara, but everyone has an opinion.

Firstly, it feels uncomfortable to speculate about or assume we know someone's situation based on the tiny snippets of their life we are seeing on a homepage or social feed.

As much as we like to think we do, we don't know someone based on paparazzi pictures and long lens videos posted without context. We certainly don't know someone based on a 20-second TikTok edited to include slow motion and creepy music.

In the comments of these posts, there are people judging Cara's free will or questioning her morality based on these tiny snippets into her life. Speculating about a stranger's mental health and addiction contributes to the stereotypes and stigma we purport to spend the rest of our time trying to deconstruct.

But let's say that the internet is right and Cara is going through a hard time and in need of help.

What are these videos, headlines, pictures and comments doing to help her?

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Tabloids are using this person's (assumed) 'downfall' as entertainment. They are gawking, mocking and judging - the online, Hollywood equivalent of rubbernecking to catch a glimpse of a car crash.

There's really no way to spin this as having a positive impact on Cara, her loved ones and anyone else - including people we all know and love - who may be struggling right now.

I'd been actively avoiding traditionally engaging with this content.

Working in digital media, you come to realise that clicks are king. Clicks are essentially the same endorsement of online content as buying a magazine used to be. If something gets clicks, it makes money. And therefore, it spurns more of the same content, because, well, that then means MORE clicks, which means more money.

It's basically like the chicken and the egg situation, except inflammatory headlines are the chook and your fingertips are what they lay.

Clearly, these stories about Cara are getting lots of clicks.

In 2022, social media also makes this content much more difficult to avoid. Content creators are effectively stand-in tabloids in these situations, sharing content that garners major engagement, views, followers and therefore, money and clout.

In mid-September, paparazzi photos of Margot Robbie 'crying' on the same day she'd supposedly visited Cara made their way around the world. There was truly no way of knowing why (or even if) Margot was upset, but the images were quickly conflated with her friend's 'issues' - and definitely not the fact that she'd been followed by a pack of dudes with cameras the entire day.

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The photos went global. I don't know about you, but I simply couldn't move online without stumbling across them.

Though these are all wildly different stories, it's the same level of saturation that happened with the Johnny Depp defamation trial, or the Don't Worry Darling behind-the-scenes drama.

Ultimately, the algorithm is going to get you.

All this says to me is that we haven't made as much progress as we think we have.

In many cases, paparazzi and celebrities have a mutually beneficial relationship - but there is a very slippery slope into exploitation and in this case, it feels like that happened months ago.

The best thing paparazzi, tabloids, and social media users could do right now is leave Cara the f*** alone.

That seems unlikely, given they still think a celebrity 'breakdown' is worthwhile entertainment and a good moneymaker.

In a decade or so, society will no doubt look back at the 2022 coverage of Cara with outrage, just like it did last year with Britney and dozens of other women.

There will be think pieces about how bad it was to treat her as a spectacle, and we'll lament a world that allowed it, while also proclaiming how much we've learned since.

Maybe next time we will truly have accepted that privacy during these moments should outweigh all else.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer and co-host of The Spill. For more pop culture takes, recommendations and sarcasm, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature image: Getty.

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